Good news! I recently discovered I’m a lesbian, which was a huge deal for me. I won’t get into it, but there were a lot of bumps along the way and huge lifestyle changes, including breaking up with my significant other. I’m not out to anyone besides my dad, my therapist, and my ex, all of whom have been neutral to supportive. Telling people is still scary considering I live in a red state and am surrounded by those who would not approve, but I carefully decided that I would tell a few of my friends whom I trust.
I expected at least some kind of response, but got absolutely nothing. It’s been a few days now, and I’m feeling awful about it. My ex said it’s maybe better that they didn’t care at all, which means they’re not homophobic. Sure, they may not care that I’m gay, but they also may not care about me as a person. I have no idea if I’m overreacting. I don’t wanna say I’m spiraling, but I’m spiraling. Tell me how to feel, Papi!
Lesbian and Lonely
Hi there, LL! Congrats on being gay. HOME TEAM! Don’t forget to sign up for the benefits package.
I definitely understand where you’re coming from. Sometimes things happen in our lives that have a certain gravity, and when we share them with the people we love we of course want them to recognize the weight — of the joy, or the sadness, or the accomplishment, or all of the above.
Indeed, LL, I wish you’d gotten that here. Whether it’s coming out or getting a new job or going through a breakup, it’s always nice to feel like the people in your life get why something is important to you.
But “it’d be nice if …” is pretty terrible advice. In fact, I don’t think that’s advice at all. And We Built This City on Advice, so here’s something productive we can do. It’s something I’ve had a lot of difficulty dealing with, but has made me a lot more content: You have to accept that you can’t control how people react to you.
I’m a writer, you know, so a lot of what I do involves trying to conduct people’s emotions in a certain way. When I make something, I do have a certain degree of intention for the public reaction. I would certainly like it if, for example, people felt sad when I aimed for them to feel sad, or if they laughed when I tried to be funny.
The reality is much messier, though. Everyone is unique, and people bring their own tastes and points of view to the table. It’s not always or even usually going to be the case that the majority of my readers will respond the way I want. If I focus too hard on that aspect of the process, I end up not so much “making” as I do “catering.”
I think that applies to a lot of things in life, LL. We all, to some degree, cater. We take how other people might react to us into consideration, we want to please people, or we want to conduct people, or, or, or. It’s not necessarily a bad thing! But oftentimes we end up undervaluing our own thoughts and feelings because we’re so reliant on feedback.
I guess what I’m asking is: Can you be satisfied with your coming out being important for you? That’s not a trick question! If you think it’s special, and an accomplishment, and a big deal, well, can that be enough? Do you need the people around you to acknowledge it as such in order to affirm your feelings?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they should be like “who cares!” But I believe you said they were neutral to positive. I think that’s fine! That’s a whole lot better than “negative to hostile.” I think their true reaction will reveal itself in time: if they treat you the same, if they welcome your new girlfriend or don’t shut you down when you talk about That Gay Shit™, well, those are good friends. That’s the good stuff.
It’s a rough world, LL. There are still a lot of people out there whose hobbies involve making people feel worse about themselves. There’s no telling what’s going to come our way, or who is going to give it to us (speaking as a fellow red-stater). That’s why I think it’s important to have confidence in yourself and to be able to affirm yourself.
Without that, we end up at the mercy of other people. And while I’ve met quite a few good people, I much prefer the stability that supporting myself provides. I’m the one who’s stuck with me, and so I might as well call the shots around here.
If it makes you feel better, though, I love that you’re gay! That’s neat. You’re gay, and that’s good. I’m gay too. Proud of you. Keep it up!
Con mucho amor,
Originally published on June 24, 2020.
This column first ran in John Paul Brammer’s Hola Papi newsletter, which you can subscribe to on Substack. Purchase JP Brammer’s book Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons, here.